PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla.-- Need something and don't want to fork over the cash? Experts say an old approach using trade is getting new life.
Whether it's by Craigslist, eBay or just neighbor to neighbor, the business of bartering is getting more popular every day. Religious organizations and home schooling parents make efforts to barter. Companies, like IPEX, have monetized the practice and made it a global opportunity.
Nikolos Burridge loves his BMW, but wants some wheels that match a bit better. He thinks his wheels are too new.
"I'm hoping someone gives me something older and more true to the car," he said.
While he has sold things on Craigslist in the past, he has never made a trade. Burridge says he was in an accident a couple of years ago. His injuries left him unable to use a fancy paddleboard, so he decided to list it as a trade. He wants to give up the sports equipment for new wheels.
"There's a chance that I could get something that's worth a little more than my paddleboard," he said.
Advertisements for trading on Craiglist in the Palm Beach County area list everything from a Venus de Milo-shaped mirror to a spacious RV to vegetables. One offers Art Deco glass panels from a 1920s ticket booth in exchange for a boat.
'There's a tremendous amount of opportunity that can be done through bartering," explained Business Professor Timothy Gilbert at Keiser University.
He says there are two types of bartering. One is for goods, another is for services. One struggle, he points out, is knowing what goods or services are worth.
For 30 years, Elana Caplove has used her services at her holistic business, Back in Balance, to trade services through IPEX. With some taxes and fees, she trades with people around the world.
"Say I have an electrician come to see me or a dentist and they pay me with their barter dollars," she explained.
Caplove has used the company to pay for a large street business sign worth several thousand dollars. She has paid for window tinting in the business. She has purchased vacations out of the country. She has even purchased business cards at the front desk and sent flowers for clients.
"Every week I use my barter dollars for payroll. And I use it for my accountant," she explained.
Professor Gilbert says, if you want to get involved in trading without a company's help, make sure you're cautious:
- Do not sell to or buy from any person outside your area
- Do not take a cashier's check or a money order
- As for proof of identification and verify it is real
- Require a formal, signed Bill of Sale
- Have a Notary validate the person's signature
- Use PayPal or similar payment system to guarantee the funds are there
- Never accept payment in excess of the purchase price. A major red flag is if they want the excess sent to a third party
- If possible, investigate the person on the other end of the exchange. Verify the address, verify the bank is legitimate, and contact the bank to verify the account is registered to the same party and if the bank has had issues with the customer in the past. Even if the bank does not cooperate completely, it may be interested to know the customer is doing business from a private account.
- As for references if the person has done business in the past. Call the references. Look for reviews on eBay.
- Have a knowledgeable expert appraise your item for value if you do not know what it is worth. Do not take less than what it's worth unless you need to make a quick sale.
- Ask for proof of purchase to verify the person actually owns the item.
- Beware of giving your mobile number and other personal information within an advertisement, and even once you've started to get to know the person you might trade. If a person can track down where you live, while they know details of the expensive item you own, you could be setting yourself up to be a victim. Gilbert suggests you turn off the location tracking settings on your cell phone if you give the number to a potential barter.
- Be aware of tax considerations.
- Verify serial numbers on items to make sure they're not stolen. Local law enforcement agencies should be able to assist in the process. Criminals will appeal to your greed. "A $500 TV from Best Buy and I'm going to give it to you for $200. Wow, that's a deal. So, where did you get the TV from?" Gilbert said.
- Think about warranties. If you trade or buy something from a person on Craiglist, there is no warranty. If you purchase it from the store, it should come with a warranty. In some cases, Gilbert says it's worth it to purchase from a store versus a person you don't know.